My Spiritual Journey Begins in Taizé: Silence

When I joined my organization back in 2002, I was invited to attend a pre-departure briefing even though I was working in Cambodia for over four years prior. So I went to France and stayed there for almost 3 months because of the holidays and the list of training I needed to attend.

I’ve been wanting to go to France when I was introduced to the meditative practices of Taize. That was during the preparation for the celebration of World Youth Day in 1995 in the Philippines. I was a young delegate from my parish and my diocese sent out to go around and tell the youth about the WYD celebration and how to prepare for it.

Taize prayers were sung over and over until the self is quiet and the only thing you hear is the song in your head and the beating of your heart. That was the first time I experience to be one with my soul and from then on I said to myself I will go and visit where it all began.

So when I finally found myself in France the first place I decided to visit was Taize and relive all the glory days of the World Youth Day experience I had when I was young. It is an ecumenical community where young people from all over the world gather and experience the presence of God through the other young people, through singing and sharing of stories and their dreams. I wanted very much to be part of that.

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Funny though when I arrived in my hostel in Lyon, not many French youths I met knew about Taize. Luckily the receptionist was from Romania, and he knew about Taize back in his home country. He was working in the hostel as part of his spring job and was happy to show me on the map how to get there.

But during the briefing at the HQ, I met one colleague – Nestor from Benin who had been there and knew some people in France that can help me go there. I was happy to make his acquaintances and over time we became good friends and we kept in touch until now.

(Dhidhak Collections / France 2005)
My good friend Nestor, the one responsible for me to meet Gerard and visit Taize in 2005. We remain friends until now. (Dhidhak Collections / France 2005)

He introduced me to his French dad – Gerard (the one that accommodates him when he’s in France) and he became my French dad too. Every time to return to France I go out of my way to visit him in Verze and we have picnics and return to Taize for prayers. Every Christmas too when I can I send him dried mangoes from home.

(Dhidhak Collection / France 2005)
Approaching the big house – Chez Gerard (Dhidhak Collection / France 2005)
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Our trusted Beattle (Dhidhak Collections / France 2005)

Gerad was the one who brought me to Taize in his old Bettle. Passing through the backroad from his small village, through vineyards until we reach the hi-way leading to the community. It was a short scenic ride all the time and because it’s close we can always stay until late and experience the prayerful silence of Taize.

(Dhidhak Collection / France 2005)
My French dad – Gerard under one of the old trees in the Taize compound. (Dhidhak Collection / France 2005)
(Dhidhak Collections / France 2005)
Follow the signs … on the way to Taize
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Entering the Taize community compound. The bells are sounded every prayer time. (Dhidhak Collections / France 2005)
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Young people come from everywhere and commune with God anywhere in the community (Dhidhak Collections / France 2005)
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The belfry of the church inside the community (Dhidhak Collections / France 2005)
(Dhidhak Collections / France 2005)
The valley around the community (Dhidhak Collections / France 2005)
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The prayer area inside the big tent (Dhidhak Collections / France 2005)
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The candles that light the whole place … it gives a warm glow that put one pilgrim into prayerful trance together with the Taize prayers sung over and over (Dhidhak Collections / France 2005)
(Dhidhak Collections / France 2005)
The ICON of Jesus on the cross (Dhidhak Collections / France 2005)

That was my first pilgrimage in France.

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Listen to Taize Prayers here and experience the peace I experience whenever I listen to them.

In the Lord, I’ll be ever thankful

Holy Spirit come to us

Nada te Turbe (Let Nothing Trouble You)

An Afternoon in Lalitpur (Patan Durbar Square), Kathmandu Valley, Nepal

What better way to spend a good day is to spend it walking around one of the oldest city in the Kathmandu valley – Lalitpur. With my colleagues, we enjoyed visiting the temples where we are allowed. Seeing the destructions made us sad but seeing people continuing with their faith practice and life made us hopeful.

Like the Monkey Temples, you will see rubles everywhere, but the temple and the marketplace are alive with people. It still attracts tourist both local and foreign still admiring the structures that are left standing.

Starting at the Golden Temple

(Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
Admiring the intricate carvings at the back door to the Golden Temple (Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
(Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
Courtyard within the Golden Temple (Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
(Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
Looking up towards the heavens … admiring the tiers of the temple roof and the small altar at the courtyard (Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
(Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
The altar in the middle of the courtyard (Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
(Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
Not sure exactly what this is … I thought this is a well (Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
(Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
Courtyard within the Golden Temple (Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
(Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
Entrance to the Golden Temple (Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)

 

Life continues despite the danger of building collapse. You will see people continue to stay in their homes. Buildings propped by wooden beams and vendors with their wares.

The streets and marketplace around the Durbar Square

 

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Streets around Durbar Square (Dhidhak Collections / Nepal 2015)

 

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Old and damaged buildings propped by wooden poles to keep it from collapsing (Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
(Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
Girl looking out the window of her home (Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
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Marketplace around the square (Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
(Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
Typical Nepalese sleepers on display (Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
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Assorted nuts vendor waiting for customers (Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
(Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
Women and girls walking along the streets around the square (Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)

The Durbar Square

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Trailokya Mohan Narayan Temple was not completely damaged during the quake. Wooden beams were used to prevent collapse. (Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
(Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
Indrapur Temple in Durbar Square where people are taking rest after their prayers (Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
(Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
One of the deities watching over the square (Dhidhak Collection / Nepal 2015)
(Dhidhak Collections / Nepal 2015)
Pigeons nesting in the spaces in the temple (Dhidhak Collections / Nepal 2015)

 

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View of the square from the top (Dhidhak Collections / Nepal 2015)
(Dhidhak Collections / Nepal 2015)
View of the square from the top (Dhidhak Collections / Nepal 2015)
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View from the roof (Dhidhak Collections / Nepal 2015)
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One of the entrances to the square (Dhidhak Collections / Nepal 2015)

Daily Prompt: Skewed

Traveling with Purpose

Two thousand and sixteen was my best travel year so far! It was not just simply traveling; it has purpose and meaning.

I was working in the holiest of the land and was able to do my pilgrimage to two other sites that all Christians wish to walk through and relieve the journey of the first pilgrims beginning from Jesus Christs.

Although I lived in the Gaza Strip, in the occupied Palestinian Territory three weeks in a row, I get to spend at least two weekends in a month in Jerusalem when I am commuting to work in the West Bank five days in a month. Inside Gaza, I attended the only Catholic Church – the Holy Family Church every Saturday located in the middle of the old city under the Latin Patriarchate and joined the less than 100 Catholics living there in the celebrations.

When in Jerusalem, every weekend I get to go and walk in the Old City of Jerusalem and experience first hand (over and over) the sights and sound of the lives of the first Christians, Muslims, Orthodox, and Jews. Walking on the pavement where Jesus carried the cross to Mount Calvary and be laid in the tomb that is now enclosed by the Basilica of the Holy Sephulcre. I even got to spend the Holy Week in Jerusalem when I first moved to Israel, and it was surreal.

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The door of the Basilica of the Holy Sephulcre (Old City, Jerusalem / 2016)

“In my opinion, if you really want to experience the grace of being in the Holy Land visit first as a pilgrim with every intent to live out the life of Jesus, Mary and his apostles, then return as a tourist to better appreciate the experience”.

When I took my two-weeks break towards the end of November 2016, I decided and went to visit the seaside province Galicia in the northwestern part of Spain via Madrid spending a week in the small town of Santiago de Compostela and end my days for a week embracing the statue of St James.

I didn’t do the famous walk along the Camino. I went straight to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. I immersed myself in reading books about the pilgrimage, at the same time meeting those that completed the journey with certificates to show for it. I was also in touch with one of my former colleague that made the same pilgrimage years back after he recovered from a traumatic health condition. Staying put was enough for me back then — I was there at the time when I needed to sort myself and see what I would do next.

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At the courtyard with the Cathedral of Santigo de Compostela in the background (Galicia, Spain / 2016)

It was one of the most exciting experiences I had. I was supposed to spend it with a friend from long ago, but I guess that trip was meant for solo travel because a companion would have been a distraction into my communion with the higher spirits when I was there.

My pilgrimage in Europe would not have been complete without me visiting San Pietro in Roma.

I missed my train from Santiago de Compostela to Madrid. I thought my train was 5 in the afternoon and when I got to the train station, I realized that it was meant to be 5 in the morning. The night before I packed my bags and planned my day of nice pork meals and hang around the church courtyard until I go to the train station embracing  St. James one last time and said my goodbye. In the end, I had to pay extra to buy my new ticket, leave much later in the night and instead of me resting before I take my early flight to Rome I arrived very late and spent only a few hours with my friend instead of one whole night and meet her family.

Then it was time to go and fly to Rome. I have few friends and family in Rome, part of my trip was a reunion of some sort — meeting again friends from Nepal and the last housemate I had in Gaza Strip before she ended her mission earlier, and a very old college buddy who was running a hotel close to Roma Termini while I stayed with family. I get to see again the small city of Vatican. The last time I was there John Paul II was still Pope, and he passed away the year after that. Then I get the chance to visit his crypt and venerate the now Saint John Paul II and attend the weekly greetings made by Pope Francis.

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At the altar of the Saint Peters Basilica (Roma, Italia / 2016)

Then it was time to go back to my original playground, the Holy Land with the promise that I will spend my Christmas in the town where Jesus was born with good friends and be home to my family in the Philippines in the New Year!